RubyConf Opportunity Scholar Experience

Good morning! 

It's the day after Thanksgiving for me and I still owe you a reflection post about the Rubyconf Opportunity Scholar Program. I just wanted to take a moment to answer the most popular questions I've received thus far, and encourage you to apply to future opportunities if you're new to programming too!

The following quote is taken from the website:

"Opportunity Scholars are folks who are new to the Ruby community or language, or maybe even new to writing code altogether, and they're ready to have their first -- hopefully transformative -- RubyConf experience..."

More on that, each scholar is paired with a volunteer called a guide, who is usually someone of more experience. For me, this was my first conference ever, and being a newbie amongst tons of people I don't know, in a city I don't know, could've felt even more intimidating than it already was had I not been paired with a familiar friendly face. Before I go any further, let's meet my guide! 

His name is Jay McGarvin. Jay is awesome! He is a developer for TeamTreehouse, and he is the author of Head First Ruby which is on sale now for preorder. My copy should arrive by Dec 2nd according to Amazon! He is passionate about teaching, and during the conference he scheduled a "Birds of a Feather" to meet with other teachers and students, to discuss the teaching/learning process and its challenges. Jay also gave a talk at the conference, that even I could understand even though it dealt with concepts a bit above me at that time. No, we did not go to all the talks together, or spend every second with each other, but that shouldn't be expected. However, before we met we chatted in Slack, and he tailored a list of recommended talks based upon my skill level! On the last day, we escaped for a bit to have lunch on the River Walk; I appreciated this one-on-one time. I think we established a great relationship with each other and I consider him to be a friend. I am very grateful for his time, and for my experience with the Opportunity Scholar Program. I will definitely pay it forward by applying to be a guide in the future. 

Application Process: How did I apply? What was the process like? 

  • I'm terribly sorry I did not blog the specifics of the application process. I just bragged about being accepted! I should practice humility shouldn't I? The first thing you should do is follow Rubyconf on Twitter; that is where all the current announcements are made. Soon after Railscamp, I submitted my application (on the Rubyconf website) which included several short answer questions. Its purpose is to get to know you, your story, and interests in programming/Ruby. I'm having a really hard time remembering how long the response time was, but judging by the dates of my blog posts, it looks like I received a response within two or three weeks of applying. 

The Packaged Deal: What did the scholarship cover?

  • Thanks to this program, my $400 Rubyconf ticket was paid for. This included breakfasts and lunches.
  • Thanks to this program's sponsor, Braintree, my round-trip plane ticket was paid for too! ($346.00). This was such a blessing! Financially speaking, I wouldn't have been able to attend without this scholarship's help! 
  • My hotel WAS NOT paid for. This ended up being ($219/night not including taxes). I booked it, but opted to send out a tweet for a room share. Thankfully more than enough ladies responded to me and I snatched up the first 3 since we could have a max of 4 guests per room. It worked out so well; hopefully they feel the same! I attended the talk of one of my roomies, and frequently hung out with the other two (also scholars) who even agreed to try a vegan restaurant with me! It was great getting to know them all too, and also have their faces be familiar amongst the crowd.
  • If you aren't into sharing rooms with strangers, I guess I get it! There were tons of hotels around the convention, and I met several scholars who scored cheaper deals, had a room to themselves, and simply walked to the conference each day. But I enjoyed being open-minded to sharing a room though, and the convenience of the conference being in the same building. #noregrets

The Experience:

The only other thing I want to note about my experience is that the day BEFORE the conference, we were asked to attend a meet-n-greet social where we could obviously meet our guide, and also mingle with other guides/scholars. This involved an open bar and snacks. So expect to come early/stay an extra night. It's worth it!


The next Rubyconf isn't until November of next year, but there will also be an Opportunity Scholar program for Railsconf in May. I highly recommend you apply. Good luck!  

**To read about a guide's perspective of this program, check out Jessica Suttle's blog post!**